We caught up with writer and performer Melissa Hugel, one of our most awesome Skyground regulars. You can catch Melissa at our next show Passing the Dame on Friday 6th June at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. In the meantime, let’s pick her brain about writing, performing and the literary scene in Edinburgh.
Right! First off let’s do the basics. Who are you, what are you, where are you and how are you?
I am Melissa Hugel. I am (allegedly) a writer, who actually makes money during the day in marketing. I am A Canadian transplant, originally hailing from outside Toronto (I stress the outside part as I have nothing to do with Rob ford). I now live in Edinburgh. I am doing marginally well at the moment, only because I am doing this interview from my aforementioned marketing job.
Oh, and why are you?
Oooh, the tough one. Well I’ll say why not? Let you mull that one over.
Can you remember the first thing you wrote?
I’m not sure whether it was the very first thing I wrote, but I do remember one of my first stories for primary school. It was about my sister’s best friend at the time (I won’t say his name to protect his privacy obviously). It was a fairy tale about a prince, but it was called All Looks No Brains. It was quite obviously a cutting satire on the superficial nature of people – or more likely I liked taking the piss out of this particular friend of my sister’s. The best part is I’m pretty sure I still have it (back home in Canada of course). It’s illustrated and absolutely the best work thing ever.
What do you think you get out of performing stories that you don’t get from just reading them?
Performing live you get instant feedback, which can be good or bad. But I especially love being able to know when a joke has worked. Hearing the audience laugh at something I’ve written (and was intentionally funny) is an experience you just can’t get writing for the page. As an author, you’re also allowed a little more control over the story when you read it live because you control the tone and voice. Less room for misinterpretation in my view.
What do you think of the Edinburgh literary scene? What would you change if you could?
One of the reasons I came back to Edinburgh after uni was the literary scene. It is such a tight knit community, yet it’s also very diverse. I love that there is a strong emphasis on things like spoken word, genre fiction, and truly thinking outside the proverbial box (groups like illicit Ink who encourage experimentation in a public forum). It’s also such a friendly scene. As someone who’s relatively new to writing professionally, it’s always daunting to try and get involved but everyone in Edinburgh is so keen to work together, it’s been great. I think though there is a tendency to stick with what you know,which I am guilty of it myself. I would love to see more writers in Edinburgh supporting groups and gigs they’re not necessarily involved with.
What’re you working on at the moment?
Ah yes, my current work. I am writing that elusive first novel at the moment. As any good writer, I won’t get into too much detail until it’s actually done, but I will say it’s a feminist take on the organised crime thriller. I call it a cross between The Departed and The Godfather, with a woman (basically looking to subvert gender roles but I still want to make it appealing to everyone). It’s a tough task and I’m on what I call my second first draft, so that should tell you where I’m at in terms of the overwhelming stress and anxiety.
You can follow Melissa on Twitter @mellyhugs, and don’t forget to come see her at Skyground alongside comedians and writers Sian Bevan, Keir McAllister, Tom Moore, Gordon Christie, Jennifer Bryce and David Marsland.